BMW Is Teasing a Throwback Cafe Racer at Villa D'Este

a motorcycle parked in a dark room
BMW Teases a Neo-Retro Cafe Racer MotorcycleBMW

The first time you see a proper, flat-engined BMW motorcycle is a moment that most motoring enthusiasts remember well. It's a blend of curiosity and discomfort all the same, as you wonder just how far the rider can lean and why this otherwise beautiful motorcycle has two heads sticking from its side.

Affectionately known as the BMW airhead, the days of proper air-cooled Beamers have come and gone but that doesn't mean the Bavarians have given up their heritage. Instead, BMW's Motorrad brand has kept up with the flat engine by modernizing it. But what fun is an old-school design without some vintage styling, too, as BMW teases its newest two-wheeled concept at the Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este.

a red motorcycle parked on a concrete floor

Known as the BMW R20, the concept motorcycle is centered around a 2000cc boxer twin engine, featuring new cylinder head covers, a new belt cover, and a new oil cooler. Holding up this monster of a motorcycle engine is a double-loop main frame made of chrome-molybdenum steel tubes, resulting in a minimalist, single-seat look. 17-inch wheels are fitted on both ends of the bike, with a 200mm section tire on the rear.


BMW says this combination of big power, a strong but minimalist frame, and meaty tires makes the R20 concept a perfect sporting companion. Notably, the R20 borrows drivetrain parts and some suspension geometry from BMW's R18 cruiser, though it benefits from fully adjustable Öhlins Blackline components at the front forks and rear paralever. ISR provides the braking hardware, with a set of six-piston, radial-mount calipers at the front and four-piston calipers at the rear.

a red motorcycle parked

With a 61-inch wheelbase, the R20 concept falls right in between its R nineT and R18 brethren in the dimensions department. Visually, however, the presence of a "hotter than pink" aluminum gas tank, color-coordinated cylinder head covers, and a seat-integrated tail light makes the R20 feel more like a cafe racer than a production bike. That said, it's hard to call this a true cafe racer when it has Alcantara and fine-grain leather trim all around.

"The R20 concept is a bold interpretation of the BMW Motorrad DNA," says Alexander Buckan, Head of Design BMW Motorrad. "It combines modern technical elements with a classic roadster design. Its oversized proportions and minimalistic aesthetic make it an unmistakable character."

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